Government policy and penalty regarding draft evaders. [IRN3694]

In Iran, military service is compulsory and there is no provision for alternative service. [ United Nations, Conscientious Objection to Military Service, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1983/30/Rev.1, (New York: United Nations, 1985), p. 30.] The length of service is two years, and conscientious objection is not recognized. [ Amnesty International, Conscientious Objection to Military Service, AI Index POL 31/01/88, February 1988, pp. 7, 13.] Possible penalties for refusal to perform military service in Iran include a "longer than normal period of military service; possible suspended prison sentence." [ Amnesty International, Conscientious Objection, p. 17.]

Articles 58 through 67 of the Public Military Service act cover the general penalties and public punishments for persons who evade conscription. In particular, those individuals evading conscription during war time do not receive their permanent completion/exemption card for a period of from five to seven years (Article 58), and without these cards, the draft evader cannot be employed in "any ministries, governmental and affiliated institutions, factories, workshops or private companies" (Article 62).

Measures taken by the authorities against draft evaders and deserters allegedly included the death penalty for some Iranians in 1988. [ Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre, Iran: Profile, December 1988, pp. 6-8, 29.] One article refers to a high incidence of absentee conscripts in 1985-1986, and a concomitant rise in the arrests of conscripts. [ Bill Frelick, "Conscientious Objectors as Refugees", World Refugee Survey, 1986 in Review, (U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1986), p. 31.] Western sources estimated there were 100,000 Iranian draft evaders by 1985-86, and that an additional 3,000 fled to West Germany in one month, during an Iranian conscription drive. [ Ibid.] The numbers are substantially lower since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. [ External Affairs.]

In January 1989, it was announced that a campaign to find draft dodgers was to begin on 8 January 1989. [ "Iran: Campaign Against Draft Dodgers to Begin", Summary of World Broadcasts, BBC Monitoring Service, 4 January 1989.] The official in charge stated that "as far as possible, severe punishments are envisaged to deal seriously and legally with those individuals who have evaded the sacred duty of being conscripts under various excuses during the eight year holy defence. The draft dodgers, who are found and arrested ... will not find leniency and they will not qualify for the four-month amnesty law." [ "Iran: Campaign Against Draft Dodgers to Begin", Summary of World Broadcasts, BBC Monitoring Service, 4 January 1989.]

In February 1989, a government plan to announce a general amnesty for Iranians abroad was discussed in the press. [ "Iran: Iranian prime minister comments on `The Satanic Verses' Affair, Foreign Loans, Amnesty for Iranians Abroad", Summary of World Broadcasts, BBC Monitoring Service, 20 February 1989.] The proposed plan apparently did not materialize, however, as evidenced by statements made by Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in a news conference he conducted with the international press on 8 June 1989. During this conference, he discussed the high number of Iranian exiles who had left because they could not face the war, and stated that "we [the Iranian government] have not yet proclaimed a general amnesty. Those who have committed a major crime are at present being investigated. But the majority of the rest can return." [ "Iran: Rafsanjani's News Conference; Announces Candidacy for Presidency, Comments on Future Policy, Foreign Relations", Summary of World Broadcasts, BBC Monitoring Service, 10 June 1989.]

Recent information on the penalty for illegal departure from Iran is currently unavailable to the IRBDC. According to the UNHCR branch office in Canada, persons known to the UNHCR who returned in the past without documents were all either detained or disappeared. [ UNHCR, February 1989.] However, there is no other documentation available to the IRBDC which corroborates this statement. The Amnesty International Report 1989 refers to an incident reported in the Turkish press in August 1988. Allegedly, "40 [members] out of a group of 58 Iranian asylum-seekers handed over by the Turkish authorities to the Iranian authorities were executed in Orumieh on the Iranian side of the border". [ Amnesty International, Report 1989, (New York: Amnesty International Publications, 1989), p. 256.]

According to External Affairs Canada, each returnee is apparently dealt with on an individual basis, and there does not seem to be any set criteria for determining which people may experience difficulties, and which will not. [ External Affairs, 9 August 1989.]

A scheme for encouraging the return of Iranians living abroad was announced by the Iranian government during 1989. Essentially, males of draft age can return to Iran for a visit and upon the payment of ten thousand dollars they will receive a new Iranian passport and exemption from military service for three years. [ External Affairs Canada, communiqué of 20 June 1989.] It should be noted that this announcement took place prior to Mr. Rafsanjani's remarks to the press in June.

In the FAX announcing this policy shift, External Affairs Canada cautions potential returnees to "read the fine print carefully" before returning. [ External Affairs Canada. ]